Monday, June 2, 2008

Do we need religion?

He stopped me when I was walking past CVS, a bible sticking out in his hand. That was last Sunday.

With my usual defense to the religious patronizers - I believe everyone has had his share of encounter with those Later Day Saints, I offered that I was a Buddhist. It usually did the trick, with politeness. But he didn't budge. Drawing out a picture of Jesus Christ - does anyone actually know how Jesus actually look like by the way, other than the pictures conjured up by medieval painters? - he said to me:"this man will take care of your pains and send you to heaven if you repent your sins and switch faith to him." I was about to engage him with some discussion about merits and dogmata in Christian faith - I was in good and easy mood. Then he followed:"Where are you from?" Ah-ha, was that why I didn't tell him to get the fuck out of my face?

I walked away, without telling him I probably knew more about Bible then he did.

Do we need religion? It's a complicated question. I'll offer the experience of a late Chinese intellectual as an example. Lin Yu-Tang, one of the best known Chinese bilingual author, was brought up as a Catholic, as many of the kids from wealthy families were at that time. He was devoted, and he attended St Johns in Shanghai, a catholic university. At St Johns though, he rebelled against the religion as he furthered his education. He remained an atheist throughout his years in Germany and the U.S. When he got real old, he reverted back into Catholic. In his words, it was not that Christianity was the religion to be, rather, it gave him peace of mind.

My view would be similar to Dr Lin's. An intellectual man can certainly live without religion. He can still has faith, in truth and in the right thing to do; and there are plenty of spirituality around without converting to specific religion. But it would be harder for him to keep all the balance. Religion, in a way, is a cop-out.

It certainly doesn't help the faith when religion constantly try to reinvent itself, having Vatican telling you what new deadly sin you should feel guilty about. Greed may not be a sin after all in Catholics' struggle to stay relevant - if you listen to them.

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1 comment:

  1. I do appreciate that in China I have the "freedom FROM religion." I haven't had a Bible thumper tell me I'm going to hell in over three years. I usually tell them I've half-assed two religions and I'm not ready for a third half-assed attempt.